Police set to adopt same uniform

THOUSANDS of front-line police working across Yorkshire could soon be wearing the same uniform under money-saving plans being considered by the region's leading officers.

The region's four forces – West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Humberside – each have their own uniform, bearing their unique crests, but police chiefs are investigating whether switching to standardised clothing would be cheaper.

It is one of a number of moves that forces are contemplating as part of a strategy to work more closely to reduce costs in the face of savage budget cuts.

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However, while predicting a common uniform is "very likely", Yorkshire's newest deputy chief constable, Mark Whyman, yesterday insisted there were no plans "in the short or medium term" for them to merge into one large super-force.

Mr Whyman, who only yesterday began his new role overseeing cross-border regional policing, said uniform was among a number of items the forces could acquire more cheaply by placing a joint order.

"I would predict that (a standardised Yorkshire police uniform) is very likely," he added. "Why would you want to keep things separate and local when you can save money by dropping some of the Yorkshire brandings?

"We are dealing with the same climate and offering the same style of policing – neighbourhood policing, patrols and more specialist units.

"If we can get that agreed, we are going to have more collective muscle."

The four forces have worked together on several operations, including the search for Claudia Lawrence, who went missing from York 10 months ago,and the investigation into the death of Chinese illegal immigrant Cai Guan Chen, whose body was found in Burn Canal, near Selby, last March.

But Mr Whyman said there was little prospect of a complete merger of the four forces – an idea first proposed in 2005 by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke, only to be abandoned by his successor, John Reid.

"I cannot say what is going to happen in the long term, but that is not on the cards in the short or medium term," Mr Whyman said. "It could be that we can be stronger together but there are local identities to consider as well."

With both Labour and the Conservatives hinting at public spending cuts after the General Election, all four Yorkshire forces are braced for a funding squeeze.

South Yorkshire chief constable Meredydd Hughes revealed last week that he expects the number of officers in the force to shrink by up to 15 per cent within the next three to five years, and Yorkshire's joint police authority committee chairman, Charles Perryman, admitted last October that cuts were inevitable.

Mr Whyman said police authorities were determined to maintain front-line officer numbers but money could be saved in other departments.

"I am looking to deliver savings for all four forces," he said. "Why do something four times if once will do?

"No one is sitting down, twiddling their thumbs, but there are examples of specialist officers using their time to work in fields other than the specialist areas in which they are trained.

"I believe we can deliver savings by looking at our core business, back office and other specialist areas.

"None of the savings come without pain, but why would we want to do policy four times over?"

Mr Whyman added that his role – the first of its kind in England – would involve making the four forces better equipped to police major events, such as the 2012 Olympics.